Duluth takes blight fight to streets (and alleys)

Published August 03 2010

A new initiative aims to clean up the city’s worst residential lots.

By: Lisa Baumann, Duluth News Tribune

Although neighborhood blight might not be the first topic you want to broach at your National Night Out event tonight, you have the mayor’s support in doing so.

Just in time for the annual event aimed at strengthening neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships, city officials have announced a new neighborhood blight reduction program to clean up neighborhoods and improve quality of life for residents.

“This is a new initiative with our fire department taking the lead,” Ness said. “From property values to neighborhood crime, unkempt property is a community issue that requires a community response. This … will help hold property owners accountable for the blight they bring to a neighborhood.”

The Duluth Fire Department is partnering with its Solid Waste Compliance team to tackle the issue. Starting Aug. 15, firefighters will systematically survey every property in Duluth through streets and alleys, according to Duluth Fire Chief John Strongitharm.

As part of their regular shifts, firefighters will inspect residential and private properties for abandoned, unlicensed vehicles, an excessive accumulation of junk and/or solid waste, overgrown yards and dilapidated garages and sheds.

They will also look for visible house numbers, houses needing excessive maintenance, those that are abandoned or vacant and overgrown vegetation that blocks sidewalks and street intersections.

Firefighters will be able to respond to emergency calls during this time and there will be no interruption to service, Strongitharm said.

The program is a change from a reactive approach to a proactive one, Ness said.

Currently, “only when things get totally out of control do they get addressed,” he said about a system that depends largely on reacting to complaints.

“We want to get ahead of the game,” added Strongitharm.

They expect it will take firefighters about two months to complete the inspections. Residents whose properties have documented problems will receive a letter from the city asking for compliance and giving information about getting help.

Firefighters will then re-check the properties to which letters were sent. If problems remain, the Solid Waste Compliance Team will follow up, Strongitharm said. The team will deal more specifically with the ordinances and city codes and can issue citations.

Both Ness and Strongitharm would like to see property owners address blight and make improvements before the Aug. 15 start date.

“We’d like to encourage compliance before we even start (this),” Ness said.

For more information about this program, contact Solid Waste Compliance at (218) 730-5151.

via Duluth takes blight fight to streets and alleys | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota.

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